In its biggest production of the season, the Opera Theatre of Yale College will bring to life a rendition of a beloved fairy tale.
“Hansel und Gretel” by Engelbert Humperdinck opens tomorrow at the Harkness Auditorium on Cedar Street. The production involves over 60 undergraduates, including a live orchestral ensemble. Sylvia Leith ’16, the show’s director, said the production will be staged in its original style, but added that performing the piece in a historically accurate way is challenging because the storyline is not set in a definitive location or era.
“It is a little bit of a difficult opera to have a take on, because it’s sort of timeless,” Leith said. “We didn’t want to update it to modern time.”
The story of “Hansel und Gretel” follows the namesake pair of siblings as they are sent by their mother to find food. The siblings wander into the forest and are found by a witch, who lures them to her house and schemes to eat the siblings after feeding them copious amounts of food.
Brooke Lamell ’16, producer of the show and managing director of OTYC, said the shows that the group has put on in recent years have covered all of the main operatic languages and time periods. She noted that “Hansel und Gretel” differs from previous productions in that other operas from recent years were all French or Italian while “Hansel und Gretel” is German by origin. Lamell added that unlike “Hansel und Gretel,” all of OTYC’s recent shows were written before the year 1800.
“Throughout our time here we’ve been able to explore the vast array of opera that is out there, and I think that’s a good move for the company overall — to give students experience on all types that are out there,” Lamell said.
The production will be sung entirely in German, accompanied by English translations that will be projected on to a screen. Lamell said she thinks the show will appeal to a wide range of audiences because its songs are catchy, its storyline is well known and the projected translations will make the plot understandable to everyone.
The entire process to prepare and stage the production took approximately 10 months, throughout which singers, dancers and orchestra rehearsed separately until this week. Musical Director Jacob Joyce MUS ’15 noted that the process of ensuring that the entire ensemble acts, sings and plays in unison has been a challenge.
With the exception of Yale School of Music professor Janna Baty, who serves as a director and adviser to the show, the entire production process is entirely student-run, according to Lisa Zhang ’15, who plays the evil witch and is also part of the sets crew.
Lillian Crabb ’16, the show’s costume designer, said the show’s set designs were mostly inspired by its costumes. She added that several of the costumes in the show are rented from the Yale School of Drama or from local stores.
Baty explained that every aspect of “Hansel und Gretel,” including the sets and costumes, aims to emphasize the magic and childlike beauty of the original story. Although not all productions of the show include the original version’s ballet pieces, she said, the OTYC version adheres to Humperdinck’s original intention to include dancing.
Baty added that for the first time ever, there will be a matinee performance on Saturday that will offer a variety of events for children, in hopes of making the show more appealing to younger audiences. Among other activities, children will be able to decorate their own gingerbread men and learn about the history of opera theatre from OTYC members before the show.
Performances of “Hansel and Gretel” run through Saturday night.